Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study Examines Performance of Hispanic Serving Institutions

New research challenges the assumption that Latino students who attend Hispanic Serving Institutions are less likely to graduate than their peers at other colleges and universities. HSIs have undergraduate enrollments that are at least 25 percent Hispanic.

Researchers examined the graduation rates of Latino and black students attending HSIs and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Texas from 1997 to 2008.

Their finding: that Latino and black students attending HSIs and HBCUs graduate at the same rates as their minority peers of similar backgrounds who attend institutions that are not designated minority-serving.

The study, “The Effect of Enrolling in a Minority-Serving Institution for Black and Hispanic Students in Texas,” was published in Research in Higher Education.

The researchers said that graduation rates at HSIs and HBCUs are lower than at other colleges and universities. Graduation rates at HSIs are about 11 percent lower than those at other institutions, the study found.

However, when taking into account students of similar backgrounds they do not differ much. Additionally, researchers also said minority institutions often have fewer resources.

“Minority-serving institutions are doing more with less,” said Toby J. Park, a study author and assistant professor in the Center for Postsecondary Success at Florida State University, in a news release. “And that needed to be factored into the analyses.”

The study also found that economically disadvantaged Hispanic students in particular were more likely to enroll in HSIs, while more advantaged students chose the traditional institutions.

Another study author, Vanderbilt University associate professor of public policy and higher education Stella Flores, said that HSIs play a key role in higher education.

“MSIs are viable and crucial contenders for increasing the rate of degree completion in America. Given the growing demographic student diversity in Texas and the nation, attention should be given to how well these schools are performing in the face of significant challenges,” she said in a news release.

The study concluded in the abstract that, ”In sum, our results provide strong evidence that the effect of attending an MSI does not have a consistent negative or positive effect on college-graduation outcomes after matching similar students and controlling for institutional capacity, despite these schools serving a larger share of high-need and underprepared students.”